China Has Blocked Microsoft’s Bing Search Engine

Microsoft's Bing search engine

Microsoft has confirmed that its search engine is now inaccessible in China after reports by several media entities saying Bing could no longer be accessed at least in certain parts of the country.

The temporary block of Microsoft's Bing comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China are running high, with the introduction of a bipartisan Bill in the USA earlier this month to ban the sale of tech to Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, and the U.S. stating on Wednesday it's intention to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

The move comes as something as surprise to observers - Bing has long cooperated with Chinese laws and self-censored its search to comply. Users who tried to search the site were directed to a page reading, "This server can not be reached". The U.S. software giant confirmed Bing could no longer be accessed in China and that it was engaged to determine next steps.

Bing has struggled to make significant inroads in China, capturing just 2% of the search market.

"We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored", said a Microsoft spokesman, without specifying the reason why it was unavailable.

Bing had been allowed to operate in the country because it censored search results, Schmitz reports.

However, the situation seems to be a bit more complex than outright censorship this time around. Search engines are always a hot topic.

On Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media site, people complained about the lack of access, with some speculating that Bing too had been "walled off".

The Government also has tightened controls on use of virtual private network technology that can evade its filters. Bing has been the only major foreign search engine accessible from within China's so-called Great Firewall.

'Bing has returned, ' wrote one user, adding three sobbing emojis.

In 2018 alone, Beijing shuttered 26,000 "illegal" websites and deleted six million online posts containing vulgar content, the official Xinhua news agency said earlier this month.

"The fact that Bing is run by Microsoft, which is not a Chinese company, means that Beijing has less leverage over the company, compared to say Baidu", said Lokman Tsui, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Smith said Microsoft took seriously its obligations to customers regarding censorship. Not helping the matter is the Trump administration's trade war against China.

It's a significant year for China, as this year marks both the 70th anniversary of the country's founding as a republic, and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square clashes.

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